Affordable healthcare: a critical Election Day issue

Casey Eitner

Making healthcare more affordable has got to be a top issue in the upcoming election. Our nation has the most expensive healthcare system in the world — we spend 18 percent of gross domestic product on it.

The 15 other countries with a comparable standard of living and large economies spend 10.8 percent. A common misunderstanding is that they have worse healthcare. Wrong! They live longer — an average 82 years to our 78.6. They have better outcomes in most diseases including diabetes and heart disease. Their infant and maternal mortality rates are lower. They have one thing in common: they all have some sort of public option for everyone.

Denver Riggleman and the Republicans say that would be way too costly. How can it possibly get any more expensive than it is already? But they only look at how much more tax dollars would have to be spent for a Medicare option for everyone, rather than on total costs across all segments of healthcare.

If you’re a 62 year old with no pre-existing conditions and have to pay $950 per month to a private insurance company . . . with coverage only after the first $6,000 in out-of-pocket, that’s $17,000 paid in before the first penny comes back in coverage. Why, you’d be happy to pay thousands of dollars per year in taxes instead, and still come out ahead with a Medicare-type option.

Now, over half of Americans get their healthcare coverage through employers so on the surface this would not seem as a big a concern for them. But the share paid by employees has gotten bigger and bigger, and rising employer health insurance costs are the main contributor to stagnant salaries. If you pay so much more for health insurance, you can’t increase take-home pay. Our enormously high healthcare costs put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage globally.

What does Mr. Riggleman propose as a solution to all this? Doubling down on private insurance. Let for-profit insurers sell cheaper policies that cover much less. Let them sell across state lines, which will only allow them to sell bad policies without what little state oversight exists now.

And less than two weeks from the elections Donald Trump has finally woken up to the healthcare cost issue by proposing that Medicare be allowed to negotiate with drug companies for better prices. Duh! All these other countries have been doing that for decades to drive down drug costs.

Senator Kaine and Leslie Cockburn have sound proposals for reforming healthcare and reducing costs by providing a public option alternative to unaffordable for-profit insurance, and making it available to everyone. That’s why I’m voting for them November 6th.

The writer is a biomedical consultant who lives in Castleton.

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